James Spadola brings a unique personal perspective to his new role as executive director of Read Aloud Delaware.
“I have a long history of working with kids in both law enforcement and the nonprofit world,” said Spadola. “Read Aloud Delaware ties both worlds together, as those who are functionally illiterate often fall on the wrong side of law enforcement.”
Read Aloud Delaware’s mission is to ensure that each preschool child in Delaware is regularly read to one-on-one.
“We are working to fight illiteracy and give every preschool child ‘a reading start,’” stated Spadola, “regardless of their socioeconomic background or ZIP code, so they can be successful in school and in life.”
Spadola, who succeeds Mary Hirschbiel as executive director, brings 12 years of experience in public relations, marketing, community outreach and partnership creation to the position.
Formerly the public information officer for the Newark Police Department, Spadola most recently served as director of business development for Coded By Kids in Delaware, a nonprofit organization focused on providing under-represented youth with technical education in software development and computer science.
Spadola now heads up what he calls a “small but mighty staff” that runs the statewide children’s literacy organization. He has goals for Read Aloud Delaware.
“We need to be well-known up and down the state in order to raise money, recruit volunteers, and build our childcare partnerships and increase our impact on kids,” explained Spadola.
Sussex County presents its own set of strengths and challenges, he acknowledged, crediting credits former Sussex County Coordinator Lisa Coldiron and current Coordinator Stacy Penaranda with successfully building Read Aloud’s presence in the county. There are currently more than 230 volunteers reading to children at 40 Head Start programs, preschools and elementary schools in Sussex County.
“Our volunteers are extremely passionate and dedicated to Read Aloud Delaware and the work we do,” observed Spadola. “About 70 percent of our volunteers in Sussex County have lived out-of-state within the past five years and are recently retired, so they bring a breadth of experience from their previous careers and are able to dedicate time to impacting kids while having a fulfilling experience.”
One volunteer recently told Spadola, “Volunteering with Read Aloud Delaware is the best part of my week.”
There are challenges for the program in Sussex County, as well, he noted.
“The travel distance from one end of the county to the other side is considerable. Our volunteers are mostly living near the beaches. We have a great need for volunteers living in western Sussex County.”
Another challenge, according to Spadola, are the first languages of the children being served by the program.
“Nearly 30 percent come from Spanish-speaking households,” he reported, “and there is also a burgeoning population that speaks Creole.”
And there is one more challenge on its way.
“Come summertime,” Spadola said with a laugh, “ there’s the beach traffic!”
For more information on Read Aloud Delaware, visit the website at www.readalouddelaware.org or contact the Sussex County office at (302) 856-2527.